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Grenfell Tower survivors told to urgently leave hotel accommodation

The Guardian logo The Guardian 24/06/2017 Sarah Marsh
A Holiday Inn in London: A Holiday Inn in Gloucester Road, London, was accommodating 30 households after the Grenfell tower block blaze. © Ed Telling A Holiday Inn in Gloucester Road, London, was accommodating 30 households after the Grenfell tower block blaze.

Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have been evicted from their emergency hotel accommodation at short notice after the local council was unable to extend their booking.

In a letter from Kensington and Chelsea council to the families affected, it said people needed to urgently leave their rooms by 4pm on Friday.

“Despite efforts to extend your stay at the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum, regrettably the hotel has stated that they do not have availability,” the council wrote.

The letter, which was subsequently shared on social media, tells families to contact the council’s accommodation team as a “matter of urgency”, providing a phone number.

A council spokesman said: “The Holiday Inn Gloucester Road was unable to continue accommodating 30 households due to previous bookings and we are deeply sorry for the manner in which the families had been informed of the need to move them.”

The survivors were reportedly staying in 20 rooms at the Kensington hotel and the council said families leaving the Holiday Inn had been offered alternative hotels in central London.

Pilgrim Tucker, a community organiser working with the Grenfell Action Group, said in a statement released by the Radical Housing Group: “It’s beyond disgusting that after all these people have been through, losing their neighbours and watching their homes burn to the ground, authorities are prepared to tell them that they have hours to pick up their bags and move to some unknown destination, separated from their friends and neighbours. It makes you wonder if anything has been learned from the Grenfell catastrophe.”

Community groups and volunteers have claimed that some people have been moved several times since the fire broke out. In response, the council said it was trying hard to avoid “unnecessary moves for people”.

A volunteer, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “This is bad for the families. It’s bad because they’ve already had to endure enough, bad because they are being told this at the last minute, and let’s admit, this country only treats certain people this way.

“It is also bad because people are now being split across accommodation all over and that means it’s probably going to be even harder for the families in question to get support.”

Leila al-Halabi, who has been volunteering in the area since the fire, claimed that “families have been split up into various accommodation away from each other”.

She said the council was not doing enough to make sure families got what they needed, adding: “It’s volunteers doing this and many families do not even know where to get what or what they are entitled to. Still, translators are not offered.

“Each family should be allocated a member from the council to be their main point of contact to see what they need and inform them of what they are entitled to.”

Tucker said: “We still need answers as to what will happen to private renters, subtenants and homeowners of Grenfell Tower. We strongly suggest that given the scale of the disaster, all tenants of Grenfell, not just council tenants, are prioritised for permanent social housing in the local borough.”

Last week, the number of people dead or missing presumed dead rose to 79. The blaze also left hundreds of residents homeless.

A spokesman for the Grenfell response team, which was set up to coordinate relief efforts, said: “Ensuring that we house all those who have been effected by the Grenfell Tower fire is one of our most pressing priorities.

“It is a significant task to find people permanent accommodation, but we are making progress.

“We are also ensuring people are supported through a case worker, who will assess things like schooling needs, family size and personal requirements.

“Currently, 57 families have been shown and offered properties that match their needs, and other viewings will continue over the weekend.”

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